January 1st is coming and for many of us that means racing towards the future and the promise of new. A time that hasn’t yet been tarnished by death, loss, and struggle. This year i’m resolving to give the past its due credit.
I wrote the first part of this when I was 25 years old; when parenthood was an abstract concept and sleep wasn’t something I’d give my kid away for. At 25 I was learning it was ok if you didn’t fit into the plans that other people had for you. I was a few years out of college, I had exited the professional world, and I was reconciling the fact that I’d rather work in a bar than an office.
25 is not 21.
25 is not a lot of things, it is not blowing money on a tanning package. It is skin that matches the snow on the ground; skin that is not prone to melanoma. It is a seasonally appropriate shade. It’s being freed of one more beauty standard.
25 is not talking, it’s shutting up. It’s giving people the time of day. Noticing how beautiful someone’s mouth is because you’re concentrating so intently on every word that comes out of it. 25 is listening.
25 is not staying in because I have no one to go out with, or plans were cancelled. I am the plan. It is comfort found within. It is drinking at a bar alone – where your bottle of beer or ounce of whiskey, cost more than your dinner. It’s goodbye to vodka cranberries.
25 is not a confused look when someone asks whether or not I want my drink neat. But if I was confused, if I didn’t know what that meant… most importantly, 25 is not being ashamed. It knows that asking questions is more important than saving face.
25 is realizing that drinking alone is OK. Shopping alone is ok, traveling alone is ok. Doing anything alone is ok and most times, better.
25 is combat boots with most things, and heels with very few.
25 is not working 40 hours a week at a job that requires a sealed copy of your degree. Not if it guts you like a fish.
25 is understanding that racking up 100k in loan debt for a graduate degree that you may or may not want isn’t the only next right step.
25 is understanding you don’t have to know the next right step, and you’re not taking it on behalf of anyone else.
25 is having expectations for people, and more forgiveness for when they don’t meet them.
25 is not wasting time on relationships with people you’re not attracted to, physically, mentally and emotionally. Not on friends who are assholes. It’s not letting your sense of obligation override what you know to be true – these are not your people. 25 is cutting ties.
25 is better.
I wrote the second part of this a few weeks ago, at 28 – and largely, it’s not about fitting in or out anymore. It’s about cultivating a life, without comparison.
25 is not 28.
28 is unwashed hair, and not in that cute ironic way that girls talk about but it still looks perfect. It is legitimately dirty hair. There are no mermaid waves, there is only grime.
28 is being honest with the world and yourself about your politics and your beliefs and working towards the acceptance of others’. 28 knows that sometimes tolerance takes time.
28 is knowing not everything has to be fun. Not everything has to taste good, and feel good, and make you happy.
28 is embracing the hard work that it takes to build a life. It’s letting go of the desire for the things you want to be handed over to you.
28 is also wondering if 28 is too late for you to be one of those Instagram celebrities. It’s wondering what “lifestyle” and “influencer” even mean. Because if it means that you’re going to send me amazing crap and that I won’t have to work for it, sign me up.
28 is an awareness of a culture that is driving us to the Internet and away from one another. It’s having experiences that aren’t documented with an iPhone. It’s being present, so memories can be made; not pictures, not likes.
28 is knowing that doing things that promote others’ happiness above your own isn’t selling out. Selfless is cool, and self-serving as your aesthetic is behind you.
28 is forgiveness. The exes, the friends, the parents. Their wrongs don’t need to be righted.
28 is travelling when you want to, not because “wanderlust” is an annoying thing that makes people who are firmly rooted in family, career, and community feel off trend, unhip, and less than cool. It’s travelling to experience culture, not to post about it.
28 is supporting others. Their work, their happiness, their beauty and their success is not an affront to your own.
28 is saying goodbye to Forever 21 and the anxiety attack that accompanies entering the store. So many racks, so much cheap rayon.
28 is sinking deep into the season of your life, it’s looking at the girls in bandage dresses and heals with nostalgia, not bitterness.
28 is knowing that settling down doesn’t mean selling out.
28 is forfeiting the right to post Internet poetry and song lyrics on your social media channels. It’s conversation, not passive aggressive Tweets and article shares.
28 knows that things break. Marriages, friendships, roles, and beliefs. They break, they rearrange, and they come back together. Fear doesn’t stop it, and there’s no preparation for it.
28 is looking forward to 30.
There’s a lot in life we’d like to leave behind, but as we race towards a new year let’s reflect on the past and see what value we can extract from it. Some lessons are hard won, they come at the end of unwanted degrees and dead relationships. They’re born in a cubicle, in spite of your 9-5 misery. They come from nurturing others, not yourself.
Whether you’re a 21 year old bar star or seated comfortably in your 30’s and beyond, I’m interested in the wisdom your years have gifted you and the changes they’ve brought… leave it in the comments! What does your age mean to you?
Follow her on Instagram @scarlettlongstreet & @spilledmilkclub